Ezra Pound argued that it was impossible to think in only one language in the contemporary world. To this end he worked in The Cantos to create a world culture built on the comparison of works of “great value” from a variety of cultures. Pound's epic poem serves to displace the English language that is its ostensible ground, while at the same time arguing, through a specific theory of the art object, against the stability of the perceiving subject. The poem thus critiques the concentric circles of identity, nation, and culture by positing a transnational world literature built upon the objectivity of the work of art. At the same time, Pound's work is an affront to the contemporary regime of “multicultural formalism,” which preserves cultural differences without engaging in any meaningful dialogue about the content of those differences, thus paradoxically supporting both the reification of the nation and the flattening out of cultural difference by making difference a purely “formal” category. In contrast, difference for Pound becomes a mark of the cultural object's historicity. By preserving the specificity of his cultural objects and highlighting the historical routes by which they travel, Pound resists the homogenizing drive of imperial culture as well as the reification of national borders perpetuated in the study of national literatures.

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